Reopening Advisory Team Recommendation with Council Approval - Updated Dec 30, 2020

In our efforts to limit possible exposure to Covid-19, our Building Remains Closed at this time.  

Trinity has a team of 5 congregation members who are working with Pastor Erica and Kate Conran to determine when we can safely offer in-person worship and reopen the building.  Our team met in August to review the current state of Covid containment and what in-person worship might look like for Trinity, based on the current guidelines.  With schools planning to resume in the coming weeks (with mostly hybrid options) many families will be increasing potential cross-exposure and this could increase risk of transmission.  Based on the current guidelines from the state of Massachusetts, the New England Synod, the Chelmsford Board of Health and our Insurance Agent - we will continue with our live stream worship through Mid-November.  Our building remains closed at this time for the congregation and outside groups.  The team continues to monitor the ever-changing guidance and regulations on this topic and will meet again in October after the status of the school systems and potential increased transmission risks within our community have become more clear to reevaluate and provide new recommendations ahead of this time.  

Since our last communication on this topic the guidelines have changed a bit - some expanded openings were permitted, but they were also pulled-back as the state assessed the impact of larger gatherings.  We are able to enjoy more freedoms than we were some months ago, but we must remain vigilant. While the number of infections in the region has improved dramatically since May, the fundamentals of this pandemic remain the same as they were months ago - this is a very communicable virus that can be very dangerous. Some people who are infected may show no outward symptoms and feel fine while others may fall very ill and even succumb to the virus. While age and underlying health issues may help determine how likely a person is to suffer a severe reaction to infection, it is impossible to know how any one individual may be affected. There is still no effective treatment or vaccine available.

As much as we all yearn for the day when we can return to Trinity to worship and rekindle our connections in person, current guidelines would make any in-person worship look and feel much different than the services we had back in January. Massachusetts has implemented a phased re-opening and churches are allowed to re-open, however, in-person worship would need to adhere to the following guidelines: 

  • Physical¬†distancing between non-household groups of 6 feet at ALL TIMES, including entering and exiting the sanctuary
  • Closing pews, making aisle traffic directional and seating and exiting in specific order to keep safe physical distancing¬†(You would not be able to sit in your favorite spot.)
  • Reduced capacity in the sanctuary ‚Äď in order to keep¬†physical¬†distancing, we may need to limit the sanctuary to about 16¬†individuals/household groups
  • The need to register/record who attended service so that participants could be contacted in the event someone tested positive for Covid-19
  • All people in the sanctuary would need to wear face masks when entering, worshiping and exiting the building
  • Singing, group recitation of prayers and wind instruments would not be allowed as these can spread the virus via aerosol transmission
  • Pew cushions, bibles, hymnals, collection envelopes and pens would be removed
  • No-touch offering would be permitted¬†(passing a collection plate is not permitted)
  • No physical sharing of the peace
  • Modified communion ‚Äď possibly pre-packaged and staying in the pews
  • Keeping doors open to encourage airflow in the sanctuary
  • No nursery service
  • No coffee hour
  • No reception line to greet/talk with the Pastor¬†or others

The resources required to conduct a modified in-person service and keep participants safe would be substantial. 4-6 people may be needed to help direct traffic flow, ensure physical distancing is followed and that other safety guidelines are in place. In addition, a cleaning crew would be required to thoroughly wipe down surfaces and clean the sanctuary and bathrooms as well as any other areas participants used between services.

Given the considerable restrictions required to keep an in-person worship safe for all participants, the resources required to effectively execute such safety measures and the fact that we have implemented a successful live stream service, the re-opening advisory team is recommending that Trinity NOT reopen its facilities at this time. The team will continue to meet with an eye to report out again with further recommendations on how to proceed in Mid-November. Facilities will remain closed to outside groups until in-person worship resumes and specific plans can be put in place for outside groups to safely resume using Trinity’s facilities. 

In an effort to gather input and community sentiments, our team plans to hold two "Listening Sessions" in late September and early October to hear from our members regarding our building status and impact to our worship options.

It is difficult to continue in this way and we all would like to return to in-person gatherings, especially for Sunday worship.  After many months of limited social interaction we all feel fatigued by our current situation and wonder when we'll be "back to normal" - we certainly understand these feelings - all of us are living this new reality. The re-opening advisory team must make the safety of the Trinity community its top priority and accept the limitations we must implement to provide the safest environment we can.  We are fortunate that our live stream worship and ZOOM Coffee Hour have been so well received. We will continue to seek the quickest, best and safest way to resume in-person worship and reopen the building.  We offer this recommendation after prayerful consideration and deep care for our Trinity community.  We look forward to being together again in the future. 

Be well - 

Kate Conran 

Church Council President